As the summer off-season begins for the NHL, there are quite a few things that need to be looked at and addressed this off-season by the Dallas Stars organization. While the AHL Texas Stars are in the Calder Finals (Down 3-2, Game 6 is Monday night), the Dallas Stars did not find the playoffs for the second season in a row. So while there are some great talents down in the AHL system, including Jamie Benn continuing to be a force after going down there for the playoffs, the NHL team is needing some help or change.
Dallas made the move before last season to bring in new GM Joe Nieuwendyk and then he followed by firing Tippett and bringing in Marc Crawford as the new head coach. While some questioned this move, a lot had been hearing that Joe was ready to be a GM and went with the move because it was his choice to take Dallas in a new direction. Wow, how does that look now Joe? Crawford brought more scoring in with him, but his system needs the defense to be able to handle the puck and get back while also getting defensive support from the forwards. Well with one of the cheapest set of blueliners in the NHL, and some youth in the forwards along, the team defense was horrible. What was it that Tippett was big on? Oh yeah, defense. And it showed as he took the Phoenix Coyotes out of the basement to the #4 seed in the West and a great year.
So what does this team need heading into a new season? First off they need to address the defense in some way. While they have a great defenseman in Robidas, there is not a strong #1 defender. And while there are a couple of good young defensive blueliners in Grossman and Fistric, the offense from this group is missing and there is still a lot of growth to be done. Daley is a guy that should be entering his prime but is struggling at times still and at best is a #3 blueliner. The biggest issue with the current defensive core is Matt Niskanen. Nisky was talked about for a couple years as a top prospect who showed great offensive and puck-handling potential. He showed some of it when he first came into the NHL, but over the last two years he has gone from top prospect to someone that many fans think needs more time in the minors or on the bench. He has shown flaws in his defensive game and positioning and many have said that his demeanor and self-esteem have gone done and stayed down. Right now he is a restricted-free agent, but I have a feeling he will be back. So with a defense that is without a #1 quality guy, and has only 4 guys that should have been in the NHL this last year in my opinion, how can Dallas expect their goalie not to have troubles too? Well the financial troubles limit them from being able to go pursue some good help via free agency. So what many believe is the best option for the Stars is to trade, either Ribeiro or one of their young forwards or prospects, and trade for a #1 or 2 defenseman. They can not expect this defense just to stay the same and improve much. Yes a couple of these guys are learning and will grow a bit, but some of these guys have hit their peak or are not young anymore. Something has to be done, either a trade for D or a trade that opens up the finances to where the could go after some help.
Next they need a back-up goalie. They made the change of guard in net by trading for Lehtonen and finding out that he is almost fully healthy and still has that great young talent. There are still going to have to see how this works out and if Lehtonen does become the long-term goalie of the future, or just a guy for a couple of years. But as of right now his back-up is a question mark. They need to get someone like Auld from last summer, a guy who has experience but will not cost them a lot. Someone who is good enough to push the starting guy and play 30 games for you, but probably is not quite good enough to take the starting job 100%. And there are a ton of goalies that will be free agents this summer, and I do not doubt Dallas could find one. Heck, Auld will be a free agent! Go get him again if nothing else.
And finally, if things do not turn this season or at least show good improvement then they should look for a new coach next off-season. They have the offensive talent, now they have a goalie. Improving the defense and getting the special teams play better should be the off-season focus for the GM and coach. But many were not a fan of the Crawford hiring and I am not really either. If things stay about the same this season, then I think they have to realize it was wrong. You have one year Crawford! Don’t make me come after you. Now let’s get some things going and get back to winning around here!